August 2010

The Case (Pun Intended) for Craft Beer in Cans

Another precinct heard from in the debate over canning craft beer. Joel Johnson, writing at, makes the case for cans. In a nutshell:

Bottles are fragile, heavy (620 grams compared to 366 grams on average for a standard 12-ounce bottle), let in light that can skunk your beer, and are harder to pack in and out on float trips and hikes. Bottles don’t stack in the refrigerator. Plus if you drop a can it doesn’t shatter into a hundred tendon-lacerating shards. Half the time you can pick it back up and finish your drink!

Maryanne and Paul heard several of those arguments five years ago, when they were at Keweenaw Brewing Company in Houghton, Michigan. They also got to see one of the new-fangled canning lines made by Cask Brewing Systems, a small Canadian firm that developed the system because amateur “brew on site” brewers were having problems with bottles. The guys at Keweenaw were ahead of the curve; since then, so many brewers want Cask’s systems that they’re back-ordered until December.

One question Maryanne and Paul have discussed over a pint is when one of the bigger craft brewers will start canning. Jim Koch, the Boston Beer Company CEO, told an interviewer that he was open to the idea of canning his beer, but he’d like to see better lining technology before he commits to cans. Johnson has some good news for Koch:

Ball [Corporation]….the company that makes the cans used by the majority of craft brewers, announced plans to make a BPA-free epoxy lining within the next couple of years at a recent packaging conference, according to an attendee.

So chances are good that the craft brewing industry’s “can-do” spirit will include more and more actual cans.

News of a Virtual Tasting

The folks at Oskar Blues Brewery, who pioneered craft beer in cans, are at it again. They’ve organized the first-ever Virtual Colorado Beer Tasting, which will take place Thursday evening, September 9.

To take part in the tasting, you need to do the following:

One. Buy some Colorado-brewed beer at your local beer store.

Two. At 7 pm Mountain Time, crack open the first beer “in a resounding chorus heard around the web.”

Three. Tell us what you think about the beer on Twitter (use the hash tag #bbc10 and the one for the brewery), Facebook, your own blog, or the Beer Bloggers Conference website.

You also might want to carry some ID, just in case there’s a virtual bouncer inside your computer.

Jim Koch on Craft Beer

Normally, Beer Business Daily is hidden behind a subscription wall, but “jesskidden,” a contributor to’s discussion forums, ran across a rare no-subscription article. It’s an interview with Jim Koch, who needs no introduction here. His Boston Beer Company has had a great year, with sales up 13 percent over last year despite the flat economy.

Koch is always good for a few soundbites, and he didn’t disappoint. On his brand’s appeal to young adults, he said:

I think that 20-somethings are much more into indie culture. They seem to be less susceptible to mass marketed and mass produced products, unless the product has some visible heart and soul, like Apple does.

He also thinks craft beer can go head-to-head (sorry about the pun) with wine and spirits:

So a consumer can trade out of a $9 top shelf margarita or a $7 glass of wine down to a $5 pint of Sam Adams, and they can still feel like they’re getting something special and well-made. The rise of craft beer has given the beer industry a winning weapon to combat the image of wine and spirits.

And if Sam Adams doesn’t get him there, maybe this will:

Together we [Boston Beer Company and Weihenstephan] developed the first new style of beer in Germany in a hundred years. It’s the Opus One of beer….

It’s unique in the same way that Sam Adams Utopias is unique. Infinium combines elements of Dom Perignon, Noble Pilsener, Chateau d’Yquem and Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen.

Some beer geeks might roll their eyes at the the prospect, but…

There will probably come a day when Sam Adams will be in cans. Can makers have continued to improve the quality of the package….I’ve been watching it since the late 1980s and the quality of the liners keeps better. So there will come a time, I think, when we can put Sam Adams in a can without compromising our standards for the quality of the beer.

And finally, Koch offers this bold prediction:

I think it’s realistic that Better Beer can get to a third of the beer market, imports and crafts and domestic specialties….Craft can be a third of that third, which is 11%, up from about 5% today. So if we hold our share of craft beer we’ll more than double.

We wouldn’t bet against him. Twenty-five years ago, the odds against his company becoming the number-one American-owned brewer were astronomical.

It’s Fresh Hop Season

Summer is getting ready to say goodbye, but there’s a silver lining: the hop harvest is right around the corner. John Foyston of The Oregonian has news of several fresh-hop events in his home state.

In recent years, hop farms have sprung up outside the Northwest. One of the newcomers is Simple Earth Hops, located in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. It will celebrate its grand opening next Saturday. This family-friendly event will feature tours of the hopyard and farm, live music, and an evening potluck.

And on September 18, in upstate New York, the Madison County Historical Museum will host the 15th annual Madison County Hop Fest. The festivities will include a food and beer pairing, beer sampling, educational programs, hop-related merchandise for sale, and the crowning of the Hop King.

The Friday Mash (Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis Edition)

On this day in 1909, Emil Christian Hansen passed away. Hansen, who worked at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, isolated a pure cell of yeast that was given the name Saccharomyces carlsbergensis and used to make lager beer. Reason enough to have a beer today.

And now…The Mash!

In Portland, Oregon, the “dog’s life” is quite enviable. Frank James at and his Weimaraner go to the city’s dog-friendliest pubs.

The Golden Tap Awards, which honor Ontario’s top achievements in brewing, were handed out last weekend. Here’s a list of the winners.

Writing in, Josh Oakes looks at the state of craft brewing in Asia. He offers this bit of advice: don’t expect to find a good IPA in India.

The recently-opened National Brewery Centre in Burton-on-Trent, England, will host the 2011 Brewing Industry International Awards, along with a festival featuring many of the participating beers.

Fried beer? Not exactly, but one of the entries in the Big Tex Awards competition at the State Fair of Texas is a beer-filled pretzel pocket, deep-fried to a golden brown. One bite and the escaping beer serves as a dipping sauce.

Does the British pub belong on the endangered species list? In a podcast on The Guardian’s website, brewers, publicans, landlords, and drinkers talk about what people want from pubs and what the future might hold.

Finally, we’re impressed by the beer list that Stone Brewing Company has assembled for tomorrow’s anniversary celebration.

Celebrating American Lager

Ever since Jack McAuliffe brewed his first batch at New Albion, people have associated microbreweries with ale. But lager has definitely taken its place in the craft beer movement. In fact, according to Eli Shayotovich, this year’s Craft Lager Festival in Manitou Springs, Colorado, attracted some 5,000 beer lovers. It’s now the state’s second-largest festival behind the Great American You-Know-What.

Shayotovich adds that this year’s ticket sales were almost double last year’s, and that festival organizers ought to be looking for a new, larger venue. He also has a list of the festival’s best beers. It’s headed by Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Czech-Style Pilsner, which grabbed Best of Show honors.

Women and Craft Beer

In the provocatively-titled article “Women, Craft Beer and Centerfolds,” Julia Herz gives us facts and figures about the progress women have made in the craft brewing movement. Herz names prominent women in brewing, provides statistics (did you know that 37% of weekly craft beer drinkers are women?); and lists female beer-tasting clubs.

September’s “Session” Announced

Session #43 has been announced. It’s titled Welcoming the New Kids, and will be hosted by The Beer Babe. She explains that the “kids” are “new craft breweries joining an established beer community, or even tougher, breaking into a non-craft beer town.”

Posts to the Session are due September 3, and newcomers are invited to join the discussion.

A Tool for Real Ale Aficionados

Alex Hall, who maintains a Cask Ale Finder for the United States and Canada, has enhanced his site with a Google map of establishments that serve Real Ale.

Of course, Maryanne and Paul went straight to the Michigan map. They discovered that the biggest concentration of establishments is in Grand Rapids, which continues to solidify its reputation as our state’s craft beer capital.

Really, Really Retro Ale

A while back, we ran across an interesting article about colonial-style ale, which is occasionally brewed at Colonial Williamsburg. The brewer is Frank Clark, the head of the Department of Historic Foodways at the historic site.

Clark runs the Art and Mysteries of Brewing program four days each spring and fall in a scullery near the Governor’s Palace where, back in the day, one royal governor kept hundreds of bottles of high-quality beer in the basement.

On this fall’s brewing schedule are Bristol beer, a strong, dark, highly hopped beer, September 12; an 1820s-style porter, October 9; mum, a North German medicinal beer that became a popular English brew rich in herbs and oats, October 24; and strong ale, November 20.

Update (8/23): Matt Gottlieb of reminds us that Thomas Jefferson was a homebrewer, and that his favorite style was pale ale. Matt had the good fortune to taste Clark’s interpretation of Jefferson’s recipe.

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